The federal government may be having a hard time passing health care reform, but states aren’t wasting any time with efforts to block its effects.
While President Obama takes health care reform back on the road again and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius sends a warning to insurers that continuing to raise premiums will hurt the industry, states are working overtime to take matters into their own hands.
This week Virginia became the first state to enact a statute to amend state law in order to block the individual mandate included in the federal health care reform bills. Called “Health Insurance Coverage Not Required,” the amendment states that “No resident of this Commonwealth, regardless of whether he has or is eligible for health insurance coverage under any policy or program provided by or through his employer, or a plan sponsored by the Commonwealth or the federal government, shall be required to obtain or maintain a policy of individual insurance coverage. No provision of this title shall render a resident of this Commonwealth liable for any penalty, assessment, fee, or fine as a result of his failure to procure or obtain health insurance coverage.”
According to the National Council of State Legislators, individual members of at least 36 state legislatures are seeking to limit federal actions including single-payer provisions and individual mandates. In some states, the proposals include a proposed constitutional amendment by ballot question, in other states proposed bills would amend state law, not the state constitution. (See complete list of state legislation HERE.)
Oddly enough, the individual mandate to which Republicans are so vehemently opposed was originally a Republican proposal. During the Clinton Presidency, 20 Republicans introduced a bill requiring an individual mandate, and four of the co-sponsors of that bill are still members of the Senate today (Bennett, Bond, Grassley, Hatch).
Once trumpeted under the banner of “individual responsibility” and “the end of the free ride,” the same mandate is now called “unconstitutional” since Democrats have warmed up to it.
Can health care really be reformed in a state where insurers can no longer deny coverage for a pre-existing condition, but where people can still wait until they are sick to purchase insurance? Sounds like a prescription for failure.
The issue of federal versus states rights is a complicated one, as we’ve seen in recent years with medical marijuana laws, and previously with racial segregation and slavery. This will be yet another mess for the courts to clear up.
Last week, the President called on Congress to give health care reform a straight up or down vote, saying, “Every argument has been made. Everything there is to say about health care has been said and just about everybody has said it. So now is the time to make a decision about how to finally reform health care so that it works, not just for the insurance companies, but for America’s families and America’s businesses.”
Opponents in Congress are stalling for time… states are making their preemptive strikes… 14,000 people are losing their health coverage every day… still, we wait. Make no mistake about it. We will all pay the price.
By the way, March is Multiple Sclerosis Education & Awareness Month. Read all about it:
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